ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Judiciary is asking the General Assembly to more than double the fees would-be lawyers must pay before taking the bar exam.
A bill submitted Monday to the House of Delegates would boost the cost of taking the bar exam from $150 to $325.
Maryland’s bar applicants pay two fees before they may practice law in the state – up to $225 in application fees and another $150 to take the exam.
The bill was introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario, Jr., D-Prince George’s, on behalf of the Maryland Judicial Conference.
Proponents of the bill say raising the fee will help pay the cost of administering the exam.
“The reason for the increase is to defray the cost of the bar examination. I’m sure the Legislature wants us to be in the black,” said Barbara Hergenroeder, character and fitness director for the Maryland Board of Law Examiners.
The fee hike will also help the State Board of Law Examiners become “self- sufficient” instead of being financed by the Legislature, said Court of Appeals Chief Judge and Judicial Conference Chairman Robert M. Bell.
Law students were not happy with the proposed increase.
“It’s a horrible idea since students come out of law schools without jobs most of the time,” and with a lot of debt, said Staci Tipkin, a second-year student at the University of Maryland Law School.
Dismas Locaria, Maryland’s Student Bar Association president, said he was concerned the substantial increase would bring a decline in the number of attorneys in the state.
But Hergenroeder disagreed.
In fact, “Maryland has close to the cheapest bar fees in the country,” Hergenroeder said.
She pointed to Florida, where fees range from $875 to $2,500 and Pennsylvania, which charges at least $500 to take the exam, as states with considerably higher fees.
Buzz Winchester, a lobbyist for the Maryland State Bar said the organization has not yet taken a position on the bill.
“Lawyers have to read the bill,” he said, “before they take a position on it.”